Don’t Anther: Blackhawks Welcome Florida

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Just past the midway point of the season, Kris Versteeg has come on out of nowhere and is leading the team in scoring. Brian Campbell is third, boasting a team-high 31 assists. Tomas Kopecky has amassed 19 points, but his -12 tells a bigger story than his point total. And Jack Skille is still not showing the spark that General Manager Dale Tallon felt he would bring to the team, with only 6 points on the year.

Could be a paragraph out of January 2010, could it not? Well, maybe not the part about Steeger. But alas, no, dear reader: this is the current state of the Florida Panthers. Chicago South, as it were, as Tallon continues to stack his deck with former members of the Blackhawks’ 2009-10 Stanley Cup-winning roster — adding as-yet-unsigned free agent John Madden just three weeks ago.

Is it paying off?

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Quick And To The Pointless

This was too easy ( Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

So Bartl was supposed to be around with your Boxing – but he has gone MIA. Sombody should probably look into that.

But we have bigger fish to fry! We’re going to forego a traditional recap as the game was yesterday and you’ve probably already read recaps  here and here. Just a couple of real quick thoughts on the game and some other things:

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Won’t You Come Out Tonight: Blackhawks Try To Rattle Sabres

Photo: AP

From December 17th through the 31st the Buffalo Sabres were 1-5-1. During the month of January so far they are 2-4-1.

So, they’re improving! Right?

The latest loss comes at the hands of Detroit (*spitting noise*), a 5-0 shutout that has the team, the media, and the fans shaking their heads. This is no longer just a slump, this is a tailspin. Something needs to be done.

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Talking Trades: Cheer The Anthem Round Table for January 2012

Photo: Universal Pictures

With the up-and-down play of the Blackhawks in the new year, the talk about trades has ramped up considerably on the blogosphere and among the social media faithful. The Cheer The Anthem staff sat down recently to discuss who should (or could) stay, who should (or could) go, and who the Blackhawks might get in return — or are any changes needed at all? Check out what they had to say in the January edition of the Round Table…

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First Thing’s First: Boxing with Blackhawks and Sharks

"Oh, excuse me Antti." (Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

That’s your top line, ladies and gentlemen.

The Blackhawks came away with five of six points in their three-games-in-four-nights stretch, dominating San Jose 4-3 – save for a few moments.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg combined for two goals and three assists in the victory, coming up with big goals – and two more near-goals – to help improve the ‘Hawks to 3-0-2 in their last five games.

♦   It’s tough to ignore the play of Stalberg, despite the fact half of his 14 goals have come against Columbus. Nonetheless, when you’re hot, you’re hot. His goal was nothing short of perfection on all accounts, charging hard toward the net after recognizing the open space. With his speed and first step, these goals can continue happening, especially playing on a line with two of the league’s best passers.

♦   Kaner is in a big scoring slump, and if it wasn’t obvious enough, Antti Niemi absolutely robbed the living hell out of him in the first period. Toews and Kane executed a perfect 2-on-1, and Niemi seemed down and out. As we’re all privy to when Niemi was wearing the Indian head, he suck out the glove across the open net and snagged a sure-goal out of the air. Kane couldn’t believe it, and Toews had to go console him. It’s a shame, but it seems as if he’s getting closer to ending that slump.

♦  Toews’ goal was the work of the entire line. Stalberg hustled to bother Niemi, and the puck shot out to Kane on the left board. Without a hesitation, he fired it to the front with Toews waiting, and all three got on the score sheet. I’ll mention this again later, but Toews described the goal during the intermission interview and referred to Niemi as “their goaltender.” Fuck the friendship when it comes to getting a win, eh?

♦   Another goal from Andrew Shaw, who may get a statue outside the UC soon if it were up to a good chunk of the fan base. I like the guy. I think he brings plenty of things to the table and it’s hard to ignore his scoring numbers. He went 6 for 6 at the dot tonight and has an awesome Napoleon complex.

However, quoting the Gin Blossoms, Shaw may want to start singing: “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” Thinking this guy is the second coming of Denis Savard will only make for a long fall from the top of the What-You-Talkin’-About Willis Tower. If this keeps up, awesome. Build his statue. But when he starts to screw up – and he will – remember to be objective toward your newly found hero.

♦   I’d like to thank the ‘Hawks for taking my mind off what I witness first-hand at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. That first period was complete shit show. Following that with five solid periods helps.

Onto Boxing…

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Get It Together: Blackhawks Try To Bounce Back Against San Jose

Photo: AP

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. After a humiliating loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, the Blackhawks get to suit up against yet another Western Conference rival on a hot streak in the form of San Jose. The new year has been good to the Sharks, with 6 wins and a shootout loss to their credit thus far.

In those six victories, they never allowed their opponents to tally more than twice. Defense is a big key to the Sharks’ game — they are 5th-best in the league in goals against. There is just one regular member of the Sharks roster who has a negative plus/minus. One. It’s Jason Demers, in case you’re interested.

But that’s not to say the Sharks have lost their once-potent offense. The usual one-two punch of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is still as effective as ever, with the three-four punch combination of Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture close behind. Those four account for over 130 points of the Sharks’ offense. This is not a team that is prone to sitting back and protecting a lead.

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How Near, How Far : Hawks Fall in Overtime

Jared Leto creeps up on Marian Hossa (US Presswire Photo)

Wow. What a roller-coaster ride that was. One can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the Blackhawks had decided to play in the 1st period.

About that abortion of a 1st period – it may have been one of the worst of the season (excluding the Edmonton game, of course). Detroit was able to glide right into the Hawks zone and set up  while the Hawks couldn’t even execute a dump and chase. Detroit led in shots on goal by an astounding 21-4 (9-0 through the first 7 minutes) margin and out-hit the Blackhawks 12-9. As you probably guessed by looking at the shots on goal, the Wings dominated every aspect of the game in the opening frame. The only reason this game wasn’t 5-0 at the end of the period was Corey Crawford, who was outstanding.

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Tell The Kids To Do It: Chicago Visits Detroit (*spitting noise*)

Photo: NHL.com

The biggest challenge about this game isn’t the Red Wings’ roster, or its goaltender, or Coach Cranky Pants, or the brain-dead knuckle-draggers throwing seafood on the ice.

Detroit (*spitting noise*) is nearly unbeatable on home ice.

But notice I said “nearly.”

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Blackhawks Survivor: Ben Smith Voted Off

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

When you’re stacked with loads of talented youth in your system and under-performing or injured starters in the NHL, in comes the carousel of players going back and forth between the NHL and AHL.  Case in the point, the 2011-12 Blackhawks.

With the return of Marcus Kruger from injury this morning Joel Quenneville was forced to make a decision about which of his young studs wouldn’t make the cut.

Marcus Kruger, as a center, will always find a warm welcome on the Hawks, seeing as they need as much help as possible in the middle.  With rookies Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes playing lights out and both producing huge last night against Minnesota, Q had a decision to make.

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Recap: Hawks Domesticate the Wild

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

There are few teams better than the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild to use as slumpbusters in the NHL right now.  That is precisely what the Blackhawks have done in their last two games.  They could have stuck their tails between their legs after Patrick Sharp went down with his injury.  Instead, they responded with swagger.

Viktor Stalberg has taken Sharp’s spot, playing with Toews and Kane.  He’s taken full advantage of that opportunity with four goals in two games.

Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes are showing that they are here to stay.  Sign them up.  I have to give Shaw some credit.  I was a major doubter when he got called up, not of his potential but whether he was ready for the NHL.  He’s shut me up really fast.  These two kids have been the spark the Hawks needed on the third and fourth lines.  Shaw scored his second NHL goal in tonight’s game and continues to impress me every game with smart and energetic shifts.  Both Shaw and Hayes scored goals against the Wild, showing that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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